Austin, Texas—thanks in part to its rapid growth—is experiencing a widening inequality gap.

Though the area has a large number of not-for-profit resources, there is still much room for growth in how those resources are used to serve families in support of their upward economic mobility.

A 2016-17 Policy Research Project led by the LBJ School’s Chris King focused on 2-Gen strategies in Central Texas to streamline and coordinate the services provided to families to help them improve their economic situation.

“A 2-Gen strategy means intentionally aligning resources, stakeholders and efforts related to improving the lives of impoverished children and their parents so that these families are provided the best opportunities to break the multigenerational cycle of poverty and become financially self-sufficient." —Ashley Barraza.

“A 2-Gen strategy means intentionally aligning resources, stakeholders and efforts related to improving the lives of impoverished children and their parents so that these families are provided the best opportunities to break the multigenerational cycle of poverty and become financially self-sufficient,” explained Master of Public Affairs student Ashley Barraza.

Some of the roadblocks to service delivery, according to King, are the city’s shifting demographics and transportation challenges. He tasked his students with looking for a solution to strengthen collaborative networks among institutional leaders in the city, private foundations and private service providers.

“We often talk about how different sectors work in silos and how there is further division of work within these silos,” said Barraza. “What is usually missing is a clear definition of the problem at hand and coordination of common efforts.”

After assessing the current situation, the LBJ School student team working on the PRP created an interactive dashboard allowing social service providers to learn more about needs and assets in zip codes around the city. 

“I’m excited to see how our work will impact the growing 2-Gen network and its initiatives in the future.” —Ashley Barraza

“We chose this deliverable because one of the challenges for providers was figuring out what unmet need looked like and who was doing what in various parts of the city,” said Master of Public Affairs student Matthew Worthington.

The team presented their deliverable to the United Way of Greater Austin in mid-May. United Way sponsored the PRP and will be leading and coordinating 2-gen efforts in the future based on the provided report. The group’s 2-gen coordinator, Amit Motwani, served as co-director for the PRP.

“Their feedback reassured us that our efforts will add value to the 2-Gen movement in Central Texas moving forward,” said Barraza. “I’m excited to see how our work will impact the growing 2-Gen network and its initiatives in the future.”

Barraza and Worthington both hope to continue their work to support impoverished families after graduation.

“My hope is that after leaving LBJ, I can contribute to the Central and South Texas areas by making it easier for social service providers to collaborate in their efforts to serve communities using the integrated, holistic approach that is at the heart of 2-Gen." —Matthew Worthington

“My hope is that after leaving LBJ, I can contribute to the Central and South Texas areas by making it easier for social service providers to collaborate in their efforts to serve communities using the integrated, holistic approach that is at the heart of 2-Gen,” said Worthington.

King, a senior research scientist and lecturer, is a member of the Ray Marshall Center, a research center devoted to solving challenging education, workforce and social problems. The center has been a catalyst for and contributor to a number of 2-Gen efforts in Austin and elsewhere. In addition, King is an inaugural Ascend 2-Gen Fellow at the Aspen Institute.